Tag Archives: Israel

The Third Scenario

The Hamas are a group of terrorists. They are not a government of any sort. Not like Israel, not like Egypt or Jordan, and not like the US or the UK. They only know how to create terror. They don’t know how to do anything else. If they were somehow to find themselves at peace, they wouldn’t have a clue what to do with it. They are as much a terror to their own people in Gaza as they are to their neighbors, Egypt and Israel. The people of Gaza deserve better, even though Gazans freely voted Hamas into power. One of the weaknesses of democracy is that you can vote to end your democracy.

However, this blog post is not about the current war between Israel and Hamas, or the events leading up to the war, but about the future immediately following the war.

Either one of two scenarios will play out: either Israel will remain in Gaza until she has destroyed the last tunnel, the last missile launcher, and captured or killed the last Hamas commander, or a consortium of world powers will force Israel to stop and save Hamas so that they can fight again another day, in a year or two or ten.

There is a third scenario, rendering the first scenario unnecessary from the standpoint of Israel and the second scenario improbable for the Hamas. It is simply this: the oil rich Arab states, Muslim countries around the world, European countries, Australia and New Zealand, South America, Canada and the USA, whose collective hearts justifiably go out to the dead and wounded Gazans – the same day they force Israel to roll back from Gaza, the world puts its money where its mouth is. On that day, the world enters Gaza, clears away the wreckage, buries the dead, cares for the injured, builds hospitals, homes, madrassas (schools), mosques, roads, traffic lights, basic infrastructure, banks, government, police, judges, hotels, tourist infrastructure, more hotels, a sea port, an airport, taller hotels – you get the idea. You give the Gazans (and the rest of the world) something to lose, so that they are fully invested in peace. You don’t ask Hamas for permission to do this. You don’t give Hamas a cent of the money, not even baksheesh (bribery) or protection money. You make sure you protect your investment and Gaza blooms until hatred, revenge, and war are forgotten.

I can guarantee you that Israel would be in there, rolling up its sleeves, rebuilding, and investing in Gaza with the rest of the world, as soon as the Gazans let them, because that is our nature.

The Palestinians have more in common with the Jews than just the small patch of land they both occupy. I remember when I took an evening course on modern Israeli culture at Ohio State University when Assaf was only three years old, a couple of years before we immigrated to Israel. There was a Jordanian army officer in the same class with me. He came up to me one evening and told me he was Bedouin, like the rest of the elite in the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. Then he spoke deprecatingly of the Palestinians. He said the Arab countries shunned them. He called them “the Jews of the Arabs”. He also said the Palestinians were smarter and more educated than the rest of the Arabs.

So you see, we do have something else in common besides the land.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Response to Ban Ki Moon

As Gary L. Bauer posted on FaceBook:

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon released a statement that read, in part, “Too many Palestinian civilians have been killed, and any Israeli ground offensive will undoubtedly increase the death toll and exacerbate civilian suffering in the Gaza Strip.”

Your Excellency Mr. Moon (or however one should address the head bean pusher of the “steamed” United Nations), I just want to understand the rules that would make us ok in the eyes of your organization. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to go something like this:

  1. It’s ok for anyone to take a thousand or so pot shots at us with short, medium, and long-range missiles, as long as most of them don’t cause much damage or many deaths on our side, whether that’s due to our missile defense systems or to the inaccuracies of their missiles;
  2. It’s ok for us to respond by bombing the sources of those missile attacks as long as our death toll equals the attacking side’s death toll.

Is this a general rule or just for us? Please forgive me, but it sounds like you’re making this stuff up as you go along. Morality shouldn’t be made up as you go along. Emmanuel Kant’s Moral Imperative was to ask what would happen to our society if everybody did what you’re thinking of doing. If society would fall apart then it’s probably wrong. If society would continue to survive then it’s probably not wrong. That makes more sense to me.

I understand that a lot of people don’t really have time to check out the facts before going off to their pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli rally and, besides, the Palestinians are so loud in their persuasiveness, but here are some uncontested, albeit unremembered, facts related to the current situation in Gaza:

  1. Israel unilaterally disengaged itself from Gaza in September of 2005. I remember many of us had visions of Gaza attracting international investment and building hotels, beach resorts, and hi-tech industries.
  2. The Gazans democratically elected Hamas in January 2006. It became clear to us at the time that the Hamas effectively scotched any possibility of investment and normalcy with their bribery, extortion, and religious coercion. I don’t think the Gazans have had another election since then. One of the ironies of democracy is the possibility of democratically electing an individual or a group of people who could destroy any possibility of democracy for the future. I think there are many Gazans that in their heart of hearts regret their electoral choice back in 2006. All they really want to do is make an honest day’s living for themselves and their families and maybe enjoy smoking a nargila with their neighbors and friends.
  3. Israel has blockaded Gaza since 2008 in an attempt to prevent the Hamas from importing weapons and materials to build tunnels into Israel and Egypt. Israel allows food and non-military materials into Gaza. Apparently Israel’s blockade is not effective enough though, considering the number of missiles they’ve fired at us.

I understand that wars should involve only combatants. Hamas has only targeted civilians, not our soldiers and not our military bases. We’d certainly prefer to attack those who are launching the missiles at us, than old people, women, and children, and not just because that would be more effective but also because of the morality we were raised on. We’ve scoured the fields, the streets, and the buildings looking for Hamas combatants but couldn’t find them. After launching their missiles they withdraw into their underground bunkers and tunnels, or they trigger their remote controls without having to leave the safety of their bunkers. We are forced to follow the trajectories of the missiles fired at us back to their sources and destroy the launchers.

Now that we have entered Gaza with our tanks, tractors, and soldiers to uncover the warren of Củ Chi tunnels built by Hamas with cement that should have been used for building hotels and, yes, bomb shelters for their non-combatants, we will find the combatants and engage them.

I don’t mean to imply that the Hamas are cowards, hiding behind innocent civilians. Hamas terrorists are brave and cunning fighters, but they are also cruel and coldly calculating with respect to Gazan civilians in achieving their objective to draw our soldiers into their killing fields.

So Mr. Moon, don’t be so quick to judge us until you’ve walked a kilometer in our sandals.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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23,169

A very specific number. Not rounded off like 6,000,000. Very exact. Changing. Doesn’t stay the same for very long. Never goes down. It’s the price of our independence, our survival. Some might say the price is pretty cheap. I guess it all depends on the currency in which you are forced to pay.

We don’t call our soldiers jarheads or grunts or any other dehumanizing name. How could we? Our soldiers are our sons and daughters, our husbands and wives, our fathers and mothers. If not ours, then someone else’s. It could have been ours. It might be ours next time around. This is the currency which we use to pay for our independence and survival. This is our glass jaw.

In this neck of the woods, it’s a mistake to show your weakness, your fear, your grief. I know that. Act as though you don’t give a damn. Act as if you’re ready to die. Act as though you’re already dead. Still, I wonder sometimes whether our enemies have sons and daughters whom they love, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. Do they grieve deaths like we do when we are alone and silent?

One thing we do that no other nation in the world does is put our Independence Day right after our Remembrance Day for the Fallen in War and Victims of Terror. I never quite understood how we expect our people to switch from insane sadness to insane happiness at the announcement “this marks the end of our ceremony and the beginning of our festivities.” I guess it is to teach us the price of our independence and survival.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

 

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6 Million Memories

“6 Million Memories” was the headline on today’s paper. Today was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. It started last night at 8 p.m. and ended tonight same time, as do most Jewish religious occurrences. The newspapers are filled with pictures and stories of the survivors and those who honor them. The radio stations and television channels trade their 24-hour news cycles and programming to story after story after story, each one sadder and more heart-rending than the one that preceded it. How can one listen to more than three or four or five stories? Yet how can you change the station or channel or turn it off?

6 million memories: they can’t be the memories of the dead. Their memories are dead with them. Besides, each of the dead had many more memories than just the last one before he or she died. There were also the memories of the infinite cruelty of the guards, the soldiers, the police, the officials, the neighbors, and those who turned a cold shoulder. That would be 6 billion memories at least. No, 6 million memories are the memories of the survivors, living people who remember their murdered parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, and children, people who knew someone who shared a crust of bread or a blanket or a smile, someone who knew a name or a number. These memories are also dying because the numbers of survivors is dwindling, but also because the people who didn’t know someone are running out of interest or compassion.

Some professor was being interviewed on the radio last night while I was driving home from work. He spoke Hebrew in a high shaky voice in a heavy European accent, slowly, haltingly. I don’t remember his name. He told of a rabbi who had said there were non-Jewish people who envied us our holocaust. They wanted to take it from us. The rabbi said, “You know what? They are right … I’d much rather be killed than be a killer.” Maybe that explains why so many Jews walked inexplicably like lambs into the gas chambers without putting up a fight.

Another thing the professor said about the impact of the holocaust on Jewish belief in God: there were those who believed in God before the holocaust but stopped believing in Him after it, there were those who did not believe in God before the holocaust and started believing in Him after it, and there were those who believed before and after the holocaust. I don’t believe God had anything at all to do with the holocaust. He couldn’t have prevented the death of a single infant from the hands of evil. There is no weaker force in nature or physics than the Will of God.

At 10 a.m. the sirens sounded for two minutes around the country. Everybody stopped what he or she was doing, stopped talking, and stood up, heads bowed, arms by their sides. The siren goes through you, resonates in you, until you become this wailing, this music.

I know I would not have survived one day of the holocaust, or maybe I would have.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Nisht a’hair un nisht ahin

What’s it really like to be an English-language poet in Israel? What’s it like to speak, read, and write in more than one language? I was inspired to write this post after reading an excellent article by Dara Barnat, entitled No One’s Mother Tongue: Writing in English in Israel, appearing in the English & French poetry journal “Recours au Poeme”. It is well worth your reading, but don’t be daunted by the French at the beginning of the article if you are monolingual; the original English follows immediately. For those Francophiles struggling along in English, Sabine Huynh translated Dara’s article into French. Sabine is a talented poet in both French and English, and translates six languages at last count.

To answer the first question, I suppose it’s somewhat like being a Hebrew-language poet in America; not because so few people read English in Israel or Hebrew in America, but because so few people read poetry in any country. More people would rather read a blog post on poetry or see a movie about a poet, than read an actual poem. But seriously, Dara makes a valid point that being an English-language writer in Israel makes one “different”, “not normal”, and casts one in the undesirable role of being an outsider, insiders being those who are “normal”, who eat out of the same mess kit as you, who love what you love and hate what you hate. The funny thing about that is that’s the way I felt in America too. Maybe it’s a Jewish thing, except that’s the way I feel in a synagogue too.

Now would be a good time to explain the title of my post, “Nisht a’hair un nisht ahin”. It’s Yiddish for “neither here nor there”. That’s how a true outsider feels.

As for the second question, I speak, read, and write in English and Hebrew. English is my native language, my mama lushin, but I’ve lived in Israel more than half my life, so I don’t have to translate my thoughts from English to Hebrew. I think in both languages. I used to speak Spanish and German too, but unfortunately those tongues have atrophied in my mouth. So a curious monolingual might ask “what’s it like?” We see the world around us through our eyes but we filter what we see through the structures of our language. Actually there are a lot of different filters that raw reality has to pass through before it enters our minds, such as the structures of culture, of religion, and of nationality, but language precedes them. If we experience something for which we have no word or form of word, then we are not likely to remember that thing. We may not even be aware of it. Most languages possess common structures, or else we’d never be able to translate from one language to another, but every language also has its own unique structures. Hebrew speakers see the world through both common and unique language structures, for instance the concurrency of biblical time with modern time, the timelessness of the Holocaust, the synesthesia between our children and our soldiers, our love-hate relationship with religion and politics, our dependence on and mistrust of the outside world, the suspicion of abandoned baggage, to name only a few of our unique language structures. These will never be translatable into English or any other language. So what I am saying is that I see the world through both sets of language structures at the same time. The realities I see are painted from a richer palette. Richer is not necessarily happier. In my case, it’s sadder.

There is so much to love, but there is so much to lose and it can be so lonely when you’re an outsider looking in.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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